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Sense of Place

Sense of Place

Saint Louis University: Competition Answers Campus "What If..."
University Business, May 2006

If executed, the winning scheme in the fourth annual Urban Land Institute's student urban design competition would change the way Saint Louis University (Mo.) students interact with their surroundings. Teams from throughout the nation were charged with designing a development site bordering SLU and the proposed Chouteau Greenway, a mixed-use development that will join two city parks. One reason a site abutting SLU was selected, notes university spokesman Clayton Berry, is the school's commitment to urban development; more than $500 million in improvements have been done since President Lawrence Biondi came on board in 1987.

CHALLENGE: The 100-acre competition site in Midtown St. Louis is a somewhat underutilized light industrial zone that hasn't been kept up, Berry notes. It creates a physical barrier between two ends of SLU's campus. Currently, students must take a campus shuttle or public transportation between the northern side of campus (which includes the student center, housing, and most academic buildings) and the southern side of campus (which is mainly used by graduate and professional students enrolled in the medical school).

PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT: A five-member Harvard team's plan won. Their idea is to leverage the Greenway's east-west connections by creating a north-south "academic spine" along the Grand Boulevard bridge-uniting the SLU campus around a mixed-use area where academics, biotechnology, transit, recreation, commercial, and residential activities could concentrate. While students still wouldn't likely walk between the two ends of campus (that is, if they wanted to be on time for class), the Harvard team's plan would "improve the campus by creating a livable, walkable urban environment where people can live, play, and work," says Peter Pierotti, who handles real estate development and sustainability for SLU.

ESTIMATED COST: $475 million

TIMELINE: If individual investors were to help make the proposed development happen, it would likely be after the Chouteau Greenway project (now in its early stages) is completed. -M.E.